overburdened christmas tree

What do consumer capitalism, instrumental rationality, and ethnocentrism have to do with Christmas trees? Stephen Goobie at The Ecological Thoughtprint examines how this holy trinity of thinking modes shapes the purchase, disposal, in fact, the very existence of the holiday’s most well-known symbol:

In the boom of catchy “green” features on the nightly news and supplemental “eco-living” sidebars added as afterthoughts in so many popular magazines, come year-end it is common to be bombarded with environmental discussions around Christmas trees.  Typically, the dialogue is limited to Real vs. Artificial — which variety of tree has a lighter footprint on the planet?

While it is positive to see attempts to gently provoke consumers to think more about where their seasonal products are coming from (and eventually ending up), the conversation usually narrows to empirical measurements of land use for tree farms and pesticide application, or to factory conditions for manufacturing and toxicity of plastics.  We hear statistics about the 40 million farmed trees sold in North America, part of a half-billion-dollar industry; or the multiple-million China-made PVC-based “trees” purchased as a longer-lasting alternative.  Sometimes interesting compromises are offered, such as rental services which provide a potted tree to be later planted in an area for reforestation or non-profit organizations which raise money through the sale of trees.  Nevertheless, in the end consumers are left to decide which is the ”lesser evil” option.

As with all environmental issues, as students, educators, and advocates there are deeper questions we must ask.  As always, these questions are at the core of the ecological thoughtprint educational concept.  Christmas trees offer one convenient, and timely, example for contemplation.

  • What are the underlying ways of thinking behind the growing global Christmas tree industry?  In other words, what is the ecological thoughtprint of a contemporary Christmas tree?
  • Has this “tradition” always had this thoughtprint?  Or has it changed with the worldwide rise of consumer capitalism?
  • Are there alternative ways of thinking which may better support the original or potential meanings of the Christmas celebration?  Better, meaning more authentic, more meaningful, stirring more satisfaction, health and fulfilment for societies and our natural kin?

Continue reading: The Ecological Thoughtprint of a Christmas Tree @ The Ecological Thoughtprint.